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Gun Runner Brilliant Arrogate Flops Godolphin Begins New Era

Author: Michele Macdonald

17/08/2017
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A Arrogate MERICANS have been looking to the revered grounds of Saratoga Springs, New York, as a proving field for decades, the places where champions sometimes are buried in its figurative graveyard or new leaders are forged in the fires of competition. Within the span of about a week and a half in late July and early August, Saratoga once again served as a grand stage for the theatre of the sport. The racing paradise known, pun intended, as the ‘August Place to Be’ gave us further proof of just how good the first two finishers were in this year’s Dubai World Cup, a glimpse into the near future for Godolphin, and the revelation that this year’s crop of American 3yos does not, at this point, include anything close to a brilliant colt.

But, while summer is waning, there still is time for this generation. After all, Arrogate did not emerge as anything special until he ran off with the Travers Stakes at Saratoga last August, and this year’s edition of the ‘Midsummer Derby’ on August 26 could once again put one 3yo in front of all others. Regardless of what happens in that race, however, no horse is likely to outshine Gun Runner at Saratoga, considering the silken and effortless strides he displayed in his second Grade One victory since returning from Dubai. Without ever having to fire his best shot, the Dubai World Cup runner-up blasted his outmatched opposition in the historic Whitney Stakes, gliding to victory by more than five lengths even though carrying the slight extra weight of a shoe, thrown by early pacesetter Cautious Giant, tangled in his tail.

“Can you believe that?,” trainer Steve Asmussen exclaimed after the race about the errant shoe that flew off Cautious Giant’s foot and landed in Gun Runner’s tail hairs in a unique racing occurrence sure to become a Saratoga legend.

“I mean if we tried to throw one and stick it in his tail as he was standing still, we’d go ‘0 for 1,000’, let alone at a run,” Asmussen mused, adding that the shoe did not bang against the Candy Ride colt’s legs or do any damage even though there were still nails in it. “With how fast he was going, it was held out from him. We were obviously unaware of it until he came back to the winner’s circle, but there is not a nick on him.” Gun Runner finished the 1m1f trip in a snappy time of 1:47.71 even though never threatened and only receiving one stroke of jockey Florent Geroux’s whip. Another Dubai World Cup runner, Keen Ice, who finished seventh at Meydan, rallied well after stumbling badly at the start to gain second in the Whitney even though the big son of Curlin prefers longer distances.

“My horse was just on cruise control; I gave him a tap around the eighth pole to make sure he stayed focused, but there was not even a need for that,” Geroux said of Gun Runner. “What can I say? He is a beast. He can do it all.” Gun Runner’s performance, his fourth consecutive win in the United States going back to the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last November, was in stark contrast with the shocking flop by Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, over an extended mile, on July 22 at Del Mar. Never a factor, Arrogate trailed home in fourth behind moderate rivals Accelerate, Donworth and Cat Burglar, finishing a stunning 15 lengths plus behind winner Accelerate at the wire. While no one is claiming Gun Runner, who has never beaten Arrogate, is suddenly the better horse, he clearly is thriving while Arrogate’s status is something of a mystery until he runs next, with Saturday’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar his target.

Trainer Bob Baffert reported Arrogate was sound after the San Diego and said the Unbridled’s Song colt owned by Juddmonte Farms was ‘just flat’. There was some concern a training workout drained his energy. Arrogate and Gun Runner seem destined to meet again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which, unfortunately for Arrogate in light of his San Diego failure, will be run at Del Mar. At this point, it appears neither has much to worry about from the 3yos since that crop continues to shuffle the deck with different winners in each major race. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing were both upset by dirt debutant Good Samaritan in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 29, while Girvin Good Samaritan 57 defeated McCraken, both Classic ‘also rans’, in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park the following day.

That leaves Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit as potential divisional leader if he captures the Travers. Looking to the future, the two session selected Saratoga yearling sale at Fasig-Tipton saw Godolphin buy two yearlings, a War Front colt who is a full brother to Grade One winner Avenge, and a Tiznow filly, with the former headed to Europe and the latter to race in America.

The sale marked the first major auction since the changing of the guard at Godolphin, yet the buying trio of Anthony Stroud, David Loder and Jono Mills has long been active on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed and his team so in that sense, there was no major shift in direction, and none is anticipated in the foreseeable future. “It’s a team effort,” said Stroud, indicating that all three bloodstock specialists will continue purchasing young horses for Godolphin. “We’ll be back in September, for the Keeneland Yearling Sale, definitely. And that’s the plan, for Tattersalls and other sales. “It’s obviously a transitional period, but everyone has the same objective, the same goal: they want the best for Godolphin. They want results on the racetrack. To be honest, that’s number one. That’s the key to everything,” Stroud added.

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